Call Me By Your Name (movie)

CMBYN anoterAlthough we didn’t do a group ‘outing’ may of us saw this  separately and discussed it recently. The book wasn’t popular with us.

Set in the sun-drenched, picture postcard northern Italy of 1983, it’s the sensual story of Elio, 17-year-old son of a Jewish professor, who falls for Oliver, one of his father’s research assistants, during a sultry summer at the family’s luxurious villa. Festival reviews have generally been ecstatic, though a few eyebrows were raised at Guadagnino’s decision to cast straight actors in gay roles and to tell such a passionate story with no explicit sex scenes. In revising Ivory’s draft of the script, Guadagnino took out a considerable amount of nudity. He described Ivory’s version as “a much more costly [and] different film” which could not have been made because of “market realities.”

Guadagnino has described Call Me By Your Name as a family-oriented film for the purpose of “transmission of knowledge and hope that people of different generations come to see the film together.” He never saw it as a “gay” movie, but rather calls it a film about the “beauty of the newborn idea of desire, unbiased and uncynical,” and reflects his motto of living “with a sense of joie de vivre.” The director attempted to avoid the flaws he had seen in most coming-of-age films, in which growth is often portrayed as a result of resolving certain preconceived dilemmas, like choosing between two lovers. He also wanted the story to follow two people in the moment, rather than focus on an antagonist or a tragedy, a specific approach inspired by À Nos Amours (1983), directed by Maurice Pialat. As someone who considers sex in film a representation of the characters’ behaviour and identity, Guadagnino wasn’t interested in including explicit sex scenes in the film, in order to keep the tone as planned, saying, “I wanted the audience to completely rely on the emotional travel of these people and feel first love […] It was important to me to create this powerful universality, because the whole idea of the movie is that the other person makes you beautiful — enlightens you, elevates you.”

And: I remember the script was pretty graphic in the description of the first time they make love. I was struggling with that because coming from someone who debuted in 1993 with a short film that was pretty out there, called Here, I think I’m interested in the representation of sex between people if that is in an insight about their behavior and who they are. But if it’s an illustration or transition, I just don’t care. I think we had everything we needed in the movie about their intimacy, about the necessity of attraction to one another. I found it erotic when they put their feet on top of the other’s feet. That moment is so strong and so powerful because it dictates an urgency of intimacy. What would we have gained in seeing the actual physical act between the two of them? I think not much. I also like the idea that we gaze toward the window and to the trees like a McCarthy-era movie. We were free to show everything and we decided not to. And in a way it was a very liberating experience.

 The film has a number of differences compared to the source material. While the novel serves as a memory-piece from Elio’s perspective, the filmmakers behind Call Me by Your Name chose to set the movie entirely in the present time, a “much more efficient” solution to help the audience understand the characters and “reflect the essence of the book.”

 The screenplay was approved by Aciman, who commended the adaptation as “direct, and so real and persuasive.” He added, “as the writer I found myself saying, ‘Wow, they’ve done better than the book.'”

But it’s very self-indulgent* – despite the camera lingering ion beautiful, scenic countryside, it’s 45 minutes too long.

The characters of the college girls are undeveloped and Oliver is rude and unlikeable.

But, as a Guardian reviewer says: This film stays with you long after you leave the cinema,

CMBYN* but in the director’s view: A good example of Guadagnino’s approach is a scene where Elio and Oliver stop for a drink of water while they are out biking. As this serves no obvious narrative purpose, it is the kind of sequence a different filmmaker might have cut. “This was one of our favorite scenes,” says editor and longtime Guadagnino collaborator Walter Fasano. “First, because it evoked the typical lounging and easy and lazy feeling of old summers in the 80s. And second, that particular moment reminded us of moments in Bertolucci’s “1900,” which was shot in the same geographical area.

But why leave out the ending? (Twenty years after their first meeting and one year before the narrator’s present, Oliver visits Elio’s family home in Italy. They recall their time together; Elio informs Oliver that his father has died, and that he has spread his ashes all over the world. The novel concludes with Elio, as the narrator, remarking to the reader that if Oliver ever really loved him and remembered everything as he says he did, he should once more “look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.”)

Oliver: Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine.

“Jews of discretion”

“If you only knew how little I know about things that matter.”
Oliver: “What things that matter?”

Mr. Perlman: Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot.

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30.”

From Gay Times:

During a recent interview, Hammer revealed that while his vintage short shorts might have been appropriate for the 1980s era the movie’s set in, they led to some unexpected wardrobe malfunctions.

“There was a few times where they had to go back and digitally remove my balls from the movie,” he said. “They were short shorts. What’re you gonna do?”

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for an unedited director’s cut on the DVD release.

Meanwhile, during an interview with Gay Times, the movie’s director Luca Guadagnino revealed that we could see Elio and Oliver again in another one of his movies.

At the end of André Aciman’s novel, which the movie is based upon, the connection between Elio and Oliver spans 20 years as they sporadically stay in touch following their magical summer together.

In the film, however, it ends just months after that summer with a very powerful scene of Elio staring into the fire after suffering teen heartache.

So why did Luca decide to stop the film where he did?

“I like the present now and then, and I didn’t want it to be something retrospective,” he told us at the European premiere of Call Me By Your Name, which was part of the BFI London Film Festival.

“Maybe in time we’ll be able to tell more stories about these people.”

Asked if he’s spoken to the author about a sequel, he added: “I’ve spoken to Andre about that and, yeah, André is up for it.”

If all goes well for Call Me By Your Name upon its release, we could well be seeing more of this love affair play out on the big screen in the future.

One year after its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, people are still talking about the story of an ethereal romance forming under an Italian summer in 1983.

But not all of the talk is positive. Criticism of Call Me By Your Name has swamped social media, and after the film was recently snubbed at the Golden Globes, it seems necessary to defend Luca Guadagnino’s elegant production.

So, without further ado: Here’s why all your criticisms of Call Me By Your Name are wrong.

1. The age gap

Without a doubt, the most ‘controversial’ subject of the film is the seven-year age gap between protagonist Elio, portrayed by Timothée Chalamet, and lover Oliver, portrayed by Armie Hammer. Elio is seventeen-years-old, three years above the legal age for consensual sex in Italy. In fact, the age of consent ranges from 14-16 in the majority of European countries.

The cultural norms surrounding sex are clearly established well before Elio and Oliver are intimate. For example, Elio proudly announces at the dinner table that he “nearly had sex last night,” to which his father replies, “Why didn’t you?” A question that suggests he trusts Elio is mature enough to make his own decisions regarding sex.

The trust his parents share is shown again by Elio’s parent’s acceptance of Oliver as their son’s lover. At the end of the film, Elio’s father reassures his son he shouldn’t regret his experience just because of the heartache he faces: “Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.”

Out of the rollercoaster of emotions that Elio is able to evoke, sometimes without even saying a word, regret is not one of them.

n the surface, Elio appears as a timid character that lacks confidence, and the concept that he seeks guidance in an older Oliver makes perfect sense, especially considering his first words about him are “he seems confident.”

But Elio exuberates confidence in other ways, ways which are subtle and internal yet powerful and admirable. He is the first to confess his feelings towards Oliver, fully aware of the societal repercussions it may have. “Because there’s no one else I can say this to but you,” he admits.

Elio makes many first moves, and without these actions, it’s possible the romance would’ve settled as a ‘skinny love’. He daringly grabs Oliver’s crotch; he reaches out and writes to Oliver after their slight distancing; he doesn’t deny his feelings when speaking to his father and he directly tells Oliver “I don’t want you to go.”

He bleeds, he cries, he laughs, he dances like nobody is watching and he wears his heart on his sleeve. Elio is far from weak.

Overall, their relationship is nothing more than legal and consensual, filled with reassurance and respect.

Little is left to the imagination during Elio’s anti-climatic sexual encounter with Marzia, portrayed by Esther Garrel. We’re shown his naked bum grinding awkwardly against her, which perfectly summarises their relationship: Public, experimental and emotionally stunted.

Elio introduces Marzia to his parent’s gay friends, making sure he kisses her in front of them. He brings up Marzia as an opportunity for sex at the dinner table and isn’t afraid to kiss her in public. But attempts to make his heterosexual relationship be known seem staged and uncomfortable.

When Elio and Oliver have sex, the camera pans out to the trees outside and the shot of rustling leaves holds for the longest still of nothingness in the film.

As viewers, we are given this length of time to not only think about what is happening, but to come to the realisation that there are significant differences between Elio and Marzia in comparison with Elio and Oliver, whose relationship is undoubtedly more sensual, delicate and pure.

Even the viewer cannot invade this precious moment that follows Oliver’s line: “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.”

Elio’s nose bleed, caused by anxiety, was interpreted by some as the character beginning to show symptoms of AIDS.

This lead to people expressing concern that the film doesn’t directly mention the issue of the disease and its consequences for gay and bisexual men, despite being set in the early 80s.

However, as Miguel Andrés Malagreca points out in his book Queer Italy: “The pandemic affected Italy later than the United States.

“Between the end of 1983 and the beginning of 1984, there was an activity in gay groups which tried to learn as much as possible about the disease.”

Additionally, the author argues “the first cases in Italy were reported in large cities with intense tourism” such as Rome and Milan, contrasting with the film’s rural setting in northern Italy.

Of course, AIDS and its invasive connotations would still be prevalent in the character’s lives, much like homophobia and its hostility.

But sometimes, actions can say a lot more than words. Just because AIDS isn’t embedded in the dialogue, it doesn’t mean it isn’t recognised by the characters.

The relationship’s foundation of caution and secrecy reveals the potential consequences of the romance which, fortunately, the characters don’t fall victim to.

There’s also something that needs to be said for Elio’s parent’s liberal view on sexuality and the acceptance they show their son and Oliver. Perhaps more conservative parents would’ve been more vocal in their concerns about AIDS.

  1. Oh, the privilege?

White, middle-class characters bathing in the Italian summer outside their villa screams privilege – and there’s no hiding the fact that these characters have a lot to be grateful for.

But Elio and Oliver’s love for each other isn’t dependant on the luxuries of a bourgeois lifestyle. Arguably, it’s quite the opposite.

A theme of nature prevails throughout the story – dancing in the street, jumping into the river, cycling through the fields – the simplicity of the ‘free things in life’ is what provides the characters chance to escape and explore their relationship.

While it’s important to recognise privilege, and the consequences that come with it, arguing the film is classist is futile because the wealth of Elio’s family is neither relevant or influential to the development of their relationship.

5. Gay characters being played by straight actors

One of the first things many of us did after watching the film was Google the main actors. If you didn’t, you should probably know: Elio and Oliver are played by two heterosexual actors.

Straight people playing gay characters can be problematic: There’s no denying the fact they haven’t experienced the same things we have, and sometimes this can mirror the believability of a film.

But when I watched Call Me By Your Name, I was persuaded I was witnessing two people fall in love.

Elio’s character development is intricately beautiful, and there’s something that unexpectedly resonates with his precocious and curious personality – even down to the exploration of his own body with a peach. Credit is due for the performance these incredible actors gave and for the message they’re communicating to a mainstream audience.

Producer Peter Spears tweeted: “10 yrs ago we set out to make the movie we needed when we were growing up, a great cinematic romance that challenged conventions and proved that love is love – that the magic, beauty and mystery of first love is something shared by all.”

Yes, of course, gay people playing gay characters is ideal, but criticising a movie that has the power to help so many people in our community is more important than the actor’s sexuality.

Films are subjective. What one person loves the other is bound to hate. In many ways, there is inevitably going to be a surface of critics when an LGBTQ film comes out – particularly as the representation of same-sex characters isn’t the best. But when we push for better representation we shouldn’t simultaneously tarnish gay films for their small imperfections, many of which are misunderstood.

Call Me By Your Name is the personal story of two characters. This is what gives the film its rawly human perspective. No, it’s not perfect – but it’s pretty damn close.

While Call Me By Your Name has received universal acclaim from critics and most viewers, it hasn’t come with some criticism about the age gap between the two romantic leads.

Based on André Aciman’s novel of the same name, the film is set in 1980s Italy, as 17-year-old Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet) embarks on a summer affair with 24-year-old doctoral student Oliver (Armie Hammer).

Some viewers, however, have commented on the fact that Oliver is essentially sleeping with a boy under the age of 18.

“We weren’t trying to make some salacious, predatory movie,” Hammer told the Hollywood Reporter. “The age of consent in Italy is 14. So, to get technical, it’s not illegal there.

“Whether I agree with that or not, that’s a whole ‘nother Oprah, you know? Would it make me uncomfortable if I had a 17-year-old child dating someone in their mid-20s? Probably.

But this isn’t a normal situation: The younger guy goes after the older guy. The dynamic is not older predator versus younger boy.”

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2 Comments »

  1. […] It’s now a film. […]

  2. Interesting!! I’ve heard such positive reviews about the movie so far; and this might I add, is THE first review which has such mixed reactions!! Now I really need to see this!!

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